Explore the alluring Mediterranean islands of Sicily and Malta through a wealth of art and archaeology, tracing their history from the Neolithic to the Baroque.

At a Glance

  • Wander through impressive Greek theatres and temples in Syracuse and Agrigento, two of the most powerful cities in the wider Hellenic world
  • Visit Taormina, the picturesque Sicilian town whose Greco-Roman theatre gazes out towards the dramatic slopes of Mt Etna
  • See masterpieces of art ranging from Classical Greek bronzes in Sicily to Caravaggio’s Beheading of St John the Baptist in Malta
  • Marvel at treasures of Norman-Sicilian art and architecture such as the exquisitely decorated Palatine Chapel in Palermo and Monreale Cathedral

Begin in Sicily, the largest island of the Mediterranean and Homer’s ‘Land of the Cyclops’. Visit the imposing remains of Classical Greek and Roman theatres in Taormina and Syracuse and the evocative Valley of the Temples in Agrigento. View lesser-known masterpieces of Classical Greek art, like the bronze Dancing Satyr at Mazara del Vallo, and explore the Norman history of Sicily in the churches of Palermo and Monreale.

Continue to the island of Malta, whose Neolithic temples still stand as some of the oldest religious structures on earth, and discover its extraordinary Mediaeval and Renaissance history which saw Caravaggio serve as court painter to the Knights Hospitaller.


This tour is part of the World Art Tours program organised by the Art Gallery Society of NSW in partnership with Renaissance Tours.


15 – 28 September 2024 (14 days)

Tour leader

Julian Droogan

Tour Status


Book now


Arrive in Palermo on suggested flights and make your own way to the hotel. Renaissance Tours or your travel agent can assist you with your flights and other travel arrangements, including travel insurance (a condition of travel), private hotel transfer, accommodation before or after the tour and a room category upgrade.

At 18:00, join your tour leader Julian Droogan and fellow travellers for a welcome briefing followed by dinner.


This morning, visit the Palazzo dei Normanni, seat of the Norman Kings of Sicily in the eleventh and twelfth centuries and the oldest royal residence in Europe. The focus of the palace is the Palatine Chapel, whose stunning mosaics stand out even amongst the great works of Byzantine art for the subtlety of their colours and the delicacy of their depiction of the draped robes of the saints.

Then, see Palermo Cathedral and the Byzantine-influenced church of La Martorana before travelling to the nearby town of Monreale. Visit its magnificent cathedral, one of the masterpieces of Norman architecture, whose interior is almost entirely covered with brilliant mosaics.

In the evening, attend a performance by the Puppet Opera, a traditional Sicilian entertainment in which giant marionettes act out chivalric contests between the Franks and the Saracens.


Following a morning talk by Julian, explore the Palermo Regional Archaeological Museum, filled with artefacts from prehistoric times to the Roman era, including major Sicilian finds from the Phoenician, Punic, Greek, Roman and Saracenic periods.

After lunch, enjoy a private visit of the Palazzo Gangi, an eighteenth-century palace and last home of Princess Carine Vanni Mantegna of Gangi. Learn about how the Palazzo was used as a set for Luchino Visconti’s film’, Il Gattopardo based on Lampedusa’s masterpiece, The Leopard, which sees the virtual annexation of Sicily in 1860 through the eyes of an ancient aristocratic family.

Continue to the Regional Gallery of Sicily, located in the Palazzo Abatellis, a fifteenth century palace that once belonged to the Port Master of the Kingdom of Sicily. The gallery houses a collection of Mediaeval paintings, maiolica and frescoes gathered from monasteries suppressed in the mid-eighteenth century, including the exquisite Virgin Annunciate by Antonello da Messina.


Depart Palermo and transfer to the archaeological site of Segesta, one of the major cities of the ancient Elymian people who, along with the Sicanians and the Sicels, constitute the indigenous inhabitants of Sicily. The Elymians eventually came under the cultural influence of the Greeks, as is evident in the impressive ruins of the Greek-style theatre and temple at Segesta.

Continue to Mazara del Vallo to visit the Museum of the Dancing Satyr, housing the bronze statue ‘Dancing Satyr’ dating from the third century BC and exhibiting an artistic refinement recalling the works of Praxiteles from the previous century.

Then, travel to the south coast of Sicily and arrive in Agrigento in the late afternoon.


Following a morning talk, explore the Valley of the Temples, whose expansive archaeological park is the largest in the world at 1,300 hectares. The scale and quality of the archaeological relics earned the Valley of the Temples a place on the UNESCO World Heritage list. The site includes seven Doric temples; the remarkably well-preserved Temple of Concord is a stunning sight.

After lunch, enjoy the afternoon at leisure to continue your exploration of Agrigento at your own pace.


This morning, depart Agrigento and travel to Villa Romana del Casale at Piazza Armerina, famous for the richness and quality of its mosaics. Discover the spectacular floor mosaics dating back from the fourth century AD, depicting mythological subjects, hunting scenes, animals and people.

Continue to Caltagirone for lunch, the centre of Sicilian ceramic ware and particularly famous for its production of maiolica and terra cotta, before arriving in Syracuse in the late afternoon.


Enjoy a morning talk before exploring the Ancient Greek Theatre, recessed into the Teminite Hill and overlooking the Bay of Syracuse. Discover the third century BC Altar of King Hiero II, the largest known altar from antiquity, and visit the ancient quarries (latomie), which supplied the doughty and durable limestone of which Greek Syracuse was built.

After lunch, visit the Regional Archaeological Museum, boasting a large collection from the Neolithic to the Roman period of Sicilian history. See the skeleton of the Pygmy Elephant, an extinct species of dwarf elephant native to Sicily and Malta whose skulls are thought to have been mistaken for the remains of the Cyclopes described in Homer’s Odyssey, earning Sicily the sobriquet ‘Land of the Cyclops’.

Then, see Caravaggio’s altarpiece Burial of St Lucy in the church of Santa Lucia al Sepolcro. Caravaggio was commissioned to paint the work when he fled to Sicily after escaping from prison in Malta.


Begin the morning with a walking tour of Ortigia, the island which forms the historic centre of Syracuse. Discover the Fountain of Arethusa and the remains of the ancient Temple of Apollo. Visit the Cathedral, one of the best examples of the conversion of Greek and Roman temples into Sicilian Baroque architecture.

Enjoy the afternoon at leisure to explore Ortigia at your own pace.


Today, travel along the east coast to Taormina, an ancient city set between the towering Mount Etna and the azure waters of the Ionian Sea. Upon arrival, wander through its picturesque streets and visit the Ancient Theatre. Often referred to as the ‘Greek Theatre’, the foundations date from the Hellenic era, but the brick construction of the edifice itself indicates that the building in its present form dates from the Roman period.


This morning, transfer to Messina and visit the Norman cathedral, one of the city’s main landmarks. Continue to the Regional Museum of Messina, housing a large collection of Italian and Sicilian artists, including masterpieces by Caravaggio and Antonello da Messina.

Return to Taormina and enjoy the remainder of the day at leisure.


Check out of the hotel in the morning and transfer to Catania Airport for an afternoon flight to Valletta in Malta (flight included in tour price).

Arrive in Valletta and transfer to the hotel, followed by dinner.


Following a morning talk, enjoy a walking tour of Valletta, including the Upper Barrakka Gardens, Valletta City Gate, the bastion walls atop the city’s legendary fortifications and the Auberge de Castille.

Then, visit St John’s Co-Cathedral, where Caravaggio’s giant altarpiece, The Beheading of St John the Baptist, stands as testimony to the painter’s brief stint as a member of the Knights Hospitaller.


Begin the morning with a visit to the 5,500-year-old temple complexes of Hagar Qim and Mnajdra, whose Stone Age megaliths, among the national symbols of Malta, are around a millennium older than the most ancient of Egypt’s pyramids.

Continue to Mdina, which served as the capital of Malta from antiquity to the Middle Ages. Explore the ancient capital on a walking tour of the sights, including the main square, the Cathedral of St Paul and the bastion fortifications. Discover the Siculo-Norman, Gothic and Baroque architecture of the houses of Malta’s noble families. Finish at the Greeks Gate, one of the few remaining visible sections of the medieval city walls, before returning to Valletta.

Tonight, celebrate the conclusion of the tour with a farewell dinner with Julian and fellow travellers.


Tour arrangements conclude after breakfast.

For those returning home today, make your way to Malta Airport for suggested flights to Australia or New Zealand. Renaissance Tours or your travel agent can assist you with your flights and other travel arrangements, including a private airport transfer, additional nights’ accommodation either before or after the tour and travel insurance (a condition of travel).



Per person, twin-share

AUD 12,250

Single supplement

AUD 2,250

Deposit per person (at time of booking)

AUD 2,500

Final payment due

15 July 2024

Room category upgrade available on request; please enquire with us.

Tour price includes

  • Accommodation in 4-star to 5-star hotels with breakfast daily (B)
  • Meals as per itinerary (L = Lunch, D = Dinner), including drinks with dinners
  • Comprehensive sightseeing, including local guides and entrance fees as per itinerary
  • Transportation throughout on comfortable, air-conditioned coaches
  • Economy class flight from Catania to Malta (baggage allowance 23kg)
  • Lectures and talks with your tour leader, Julian Droogan
  • Gratuities for local guides, drivers and wait staff
  • Hotel porterage (one piece per person)

Tour price does not include

  • International airfares (please contact Renaissance Tours or your travel agent for assistance)
  • Airport/hotel transfers on arrival and departure
  • Airport porterage
  • Items of a personal nature (e.g. telephone, laundry, room service, minibar, taxis etc.)
  • Travel insurance (a condition of travel; please contact Renaissance Tours or your travel agent for assistance)


Your hotels
Palermo –Hotel Palazzo Brunaccini, Palermo****
Agrigento – Hotel Della Valle****
Syracuse – Hotel Parco Delle Fontane****
Taormina – Splendid Hotel Taormina****
Valletta – Hotel Phoenicia*****

N.B. Hotels of a similar standard may be substituted.

More Details

Tour code: AG2421

Fitness level: Moderate
Please see Terms & Conditions for fitness level definitions here.

Suggested airlines: Emirates/Qantas
Please contact Renaissance Tours or your travel agent for current airfares and flight reservations.

Australian and New Zealand passport holders do not require a visa to visit Italy and Malta.

Download booking form here.


Stay in touch

Sign up to receive news and updates.

Follow us: